Fruit size declines in strawberries (Fragaria
Duch.) as the season progresses in many subtropical areas, possibly due to inadequate leaf area, over-cropping, or high temperatures. An experiment was conducted to investigate the importance of these factors on fruit growth in ‘Festival’ in Queensland, Australia. Groups of plants were defoliated to remove half of the mature leaves on each plant, thinned to remove all the inflorescences on each plant, or defoliated and thinned. Control plants were left intact. Defoliation, thinning, or defoliation + thinning decreased yield (total and/or marketable) by 15% to 24% compared with the control. Defoliation, or defoliation + thinning decreased average fruit weight (total and/or marketable fruit) by 1 to 2 g compared with the control, whereas thinning had the opposite effect. The incidence of small fruit increased towards the end of the season. There were strong relationships between fruit weight and average daily mean temperature in the seven weeks before harvest (R2
s greater than 0.80). Fruit weight decreased from 24 g to 8 g as the temperature increased from 16 °C to 20 °C. This response was not affected by defoliation or thinning. The strong effect of temperature on fruit size indicates a problem for production in the future in the absence of heat-tolerant cultivars.
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